Yesterday I posted on Facebook that I had driven past a guy selling baby turtles out of the back of a truck. A couple of old friends warned me to keep my son away from the turtles. The story that prompted this admonition is now 4 years old. But it’s pretty funny and I thought I’d share it here for those who didn’t know Henry and I then.

When Henry was just a week past his 1st birthday, and had been walking for just a few days, I took him to the zoo. We went into the children’s petting zoo where they had a very large turtle wandering around. Henry was fascinated by this turtle. He kept following it around while I spotted him to keep him steady on his new land legs. Except at one point, he lunged forward and stepped on a, ahem, rather delicate part of the turtle. The next day I was still so upset by the incident I posted about it on my parenting forum.

Kind of sill maybe, but bugging me 

Yesterday at the zoo, I think Henry stepped on a turtle’s peni$. The turtle had extended it for whatever reason and as it started to walk away it became visible. Henry took a step toward it and stepped on it. The thing that’s troubling me is that the peni$ looked a lot different after Henry stepped on it.

I feel really, really horrible about this. The petting zoo attendant saw it happen and didn’t say anything. I was really close and trying to keep Henry from hurting the animals.

Anyway, there’s nothing I can do about it, but I feel sick about it.

Not sure what I want to hear, I guess this is just a confession. =P

I was genuinely concerned about this poor turtle and my conscience was really troubling me.  The initial responses to my confession took me off guard.

— LOL! Don’t know what to say??? ETA Can you call the zoo and ask about it, to help you feel better and see if anything really happened?

— Is it bad that I’m laughing so hard I can hardly type?

And so I responded.

I know it sounds funny, but if you’d seen that poor turtle’s peni$. . . 

What if they tell me the turtle is irreperably damaged and in terrible pain? How do you know if a turtle is in pain? I mean, he didn’t scream or anything when Henry stepped on him. . .

Maybe it would make me feel better to call.

But, oh my, do you think person answering the phone would think I was just a complete freak?

“Um, hi, yeah, I was there yesterday, and my toddler stepped on the petting zoo turtle’s peni$. And the peni$ looked, ummmm, different after he stepped on it. And I, uh, googled “turtle genitalia” to get pictures of what a turtle peni$ should look like, and, uh, it did not look like that after my son stepped on it. So, um, I was wondering if the turtle is okay.”

This, apparently, did not help my fellow forum goers stop laughing.

— Stop! I think it’s the mental image of a turtle walking around with his peni$ sticking out…

— You just gave me my morning laugh! If it’s bugging you, call. It’s nice that you care so much:) 

— LOL OMG I am laughing so hard. If the zoo attendant saw it occur and wasn’t concerned then I would just let the zoo deal with the turtles peni$. I think they WOULD laugh at you if you called with your concerns about the turtle.LOL

— I am finally home from work and can let myself ROFLOL. I have tears in my eyes. I do feel a little guilty for laughing at your predicament. And now a picture ! I just couldn’t figure out in my mind how this happened. This is definately a memorable board moment. I am sure he has received treatment and good care from his vets.  

There were some who tried to console me through their laughter. 

— Turtles (that I have been around) are capable of making sounds. I would expect if Henry had hurt his parts that you would have heard something. 

— I don’t think they would think you were a freak. They would think you were a caring person.

— Zoos are very quick to give animals the veterinary care they need. If the turtle is injured, it’s being cared for. And obviously Henry isn’t aware of what he did, so even if you found out that he HAD hurt the animal, what good would that do? Would it make you feel better?

–I just can’t help myself Jessica…ROFLOL

I do hope the turtle wasn’t harmed, but if it’s that easy for a toddler to inadvertently injure a turtle’s pen*s, then the zoo should know better than to put them in the petting zoo!!

— I’m really sorry. I know you feel bad, and I think your concern is very sweet. But you are responsible for a near miss with my bladder ๐Ÿ™‚  

And then my personal favorite:

– Are you sure the turtle just didn’t have a bowel movement?

Um, yeah. I was very, very sure. I know what squished poo looks like.

And then, of course, there was the person with intimate knowledge of turtles who made the statement which caused the thread to take a fateful turn.

Turtles do not have penises. Both the male and female have a cloaca (opening in the tail); the male’s is shaped differently and during ejaculation something does protrude a bit, but it’s not something he’d be walking around with hanging out. 

Now, this woman is typically very knowledgeable on such topics. But I had to beg to differ with her on this one. I didn’t want to have to go there, but I had to defend myself.

I beg to differ. I sent this to Kate via email, but here it is for anyone who may be interested.

[unfortunately the link is no longer active]

Scroll down to the pic of the turtle in his water dish. May not be a peni$ per se (sure doesn’t look like one I”ve ever seen) but this is what I saw and what Henry stepped on. And he was definitely walking around with it hanging out.

Now, the bulbous things hanging out of the turtle in that one pic – that’s what Henry stepped on. And they were flat and weird looking after he stepped on them. . .

ETA: I can’t belive I am now responsible for bringing turtle p * r n to the board. — hangs head in shame — 

Our resident turtle expert graciously conceded the point. 

— Yikes! My aquatic turtle is, alas, not well-endowed . . . LOL.

You want to see a picture too, don’t you? I know you do. If you don’t, scroll quickly because here it comes.

Yes, the reactions on the board were similar to yours.


— I would have completely mistaken that thingie for a tail, if it were me!

— that is absolutely unbelievable! The things that I never knew about turtles…

— From that picture, things look very… loose inside. If that makes sense? I would guess that maybe things just… shifted and made it look different.

And the woman who suggested it was poo apologized for thinking I was that dense

— My goodness, that definitely doesn’t look like poo. –snort– I’m not laughing at you, honest, I was just wondering.

And then someone did what we like to do in our culture. She blamed the victim.

— Weird. That picture clarifies what happened, but I still believe that if the turtle is injured, keepers will notice and call in the zoo vets. At least when I volunteered at a zoo, that’s how it worked. They are _very_ strict about the health of animals.

You know, he shouldn’t be walking around with it hanging out, should he?* It almost makes me wonder if there was something wrong with the turtle to begin with.

* By “shouldn’t” I mean in a physiological/behavioral sense, not a moral sense, of course. We all know that walking around with a penis hanging out violates modesty norms in North American human culture. The question is, what about turtle culture?

At this point the entire thread was a huge joke with ROFLOLing, –snort–ing, etc. My nickname on the board became “Mother of the Turtle Penis Stomper,” and to this day, four years later, people still bring it up.

For those readers who are still concerned about the turtle, as far as I know he’s fine. At the time, I decided just to trust in the excellent care I know the zoo staff provides for all of its animals. (Translation, I was a big chicken and decided not to call.) But I did return to the zoo about a week after the accident. The turtle was still in the petting zoo and apparently fine. At least I didn’t notice any bandages or anything.

3 Responses

  • You know, that is just as funny four years later. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I vaguley remember this thread from 4 years ago. I'm glad I read your blog. I'm crying.

  • Oh my! I'd forgotten about this incident! Thanks for somemore laughs ๐Ÿ™‚


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